It’s hard to argue with 40 years of non-stop running. But when you’ve had a virus that’s kept you off the tow-path for more than a fortnight, the sterling example of British marathon legend Ron Hill can leave you feeling a little disgruntled.

Lancashire born and bred, 68-year-old Ron has the amazing bullet-proof constitution typical of many brought up with wartime austerity. [I hope that's not just the lazy, soft, southern Generation X-er in me talking!] Ron told me on Monday evening, after a lecture in aid of Bath homeless charity Julian House, that a virus had never stopped him running. He said he’d even raced when ill. Start with a cough and a spit and, so long as you warm up slowly, he said, you’d be fine. The thing was not to do too much while run down. Contrary to popular opinion, he said, it was worth changing into your running gear, even if you only covered a couple of miles.

Ron’s uninterrupted running record is unprecedented. He says he has not missed a single day since 1964. But is Ron an anomaly?

I know that my own virus this past two weeks might easily have led to something worse. Two people I know of – a mother and child – contracted pneumonia on top of it. As all my family have had it, more or less as severely, and normally hardy members of the local community have succumbed, I’m not ashamed to have had to take it easy, focus on rest and the best nutrition.

Ron Hill confessed to having run the day after a car crash which crushed his ribs. And on the same day that he had exploratory surgery for a knee injury. He kept this from his family, of course.

It clearly worked for him. But I suspect that more athletes would do more permanent damage by not resting than would succeed by following what appears to be a compulsion to run, even though that compulsion must be a major component in the will to win.

Dr Tim Noakes, author of Running Lore, contends that Ron Hill’s overzealous training programme cost him the Olympic gold in 1972. What might such a win have done to inspire British marathon running for several generations? Noakes also notes that the chronic chest infections Hill suffered at some points in his career would now be regarded as classic symptoms of overtraining syndrome.

Resting heart rate 53

Weight 73 kg

Mood :-(

Sick with virus (16th day)

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